The U.S. House of Representatives late Thursday, Jan. 3, passed bills to fund and reopen furloughed government departments for the short term, but refused to include any funding as for a border wall as requested by President Trump.
The House cleared two separate pieces of legislation.
A stopgap spending bill, which passed 239 to 192, would grant $1.3 billion to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to fund it through until Feb. 8. However, none of that money would go towards construction of a wall.
Another six-bill package, which passed at 241 to 190, would grant funding to the remaining federal agencies through Sept. 30.
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 4, 2019
President Donald Trump has said that he won’t be signing a spending bill that doesn’t include wall funding. He has indicated that he would accept less than the $5 billion he originally asked for but did not specify the amount. The White House also formally opposed the two bills in a statement of administration policy on Jan. 3.
New Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she won’t support funding for a wall, saying it’s “expensive” and “ineffective.”
“We’re talking about border security,” Pelosi said in an interview with Today on Jan. 3. “There’s no amount of persuasion he can do to say to us, ‘We want you to do something that is not effective, that costs billions of dollars, that sends the wrong message about who we are as a country.’”
But the President disagrees.
Hours ahead of the House vote, Trump took to the White House briefing room to address the media about border security—the first time he has spoken from that podium.
“You can call it a barrier, you can call it whatever you want, but essentially, we need protection in our country,” he said. “I have never had so much support as I have over the last week over my stance for border security, for border control, and for, frankly, the wall or the barrier.”
In the briefing room, Trump invited members of the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) to explain their views on the importance of a physical barrier along the Southwest border.
NBPC President Brandon Judd, who has worked as a border agent for 21 years in some of the country’s busiest sectors, said: “Anywhere that you look, where we have built walls, they have worked … They have been an absolute necessity for Border Patrol agents in securing the border.”
In the Yuma, Arizona, border sector, a fence reduced illegal border crossings by almost 95 percent and stopped illicit vehicle traffic.
Art del Cueto, vice president of the NBPC, urged reporters to ask themselves: “If I come to your home, do you want me to knock on the front door, or do you want me to climb through that window?”
He said that border patrol agents have “skin in the game” with the government shutdown.
“However, it comes down to border security and we are extremely grateful to President Trump and we fully support what he is doing to take care of our nation’s borders, to take care of the future of this United States,” del Cueto said.
Trump also made his stance about Democrat concerns about tax-payer expense for a wall known on Dec. 4 when he took to Twitter to urge Congress to approve wall funding.
“Could somebody please explain to the Democrats (we need their votes) that our Country losses [sic] 250 Billion Dollars a year on illegal immigration, not including the terrible drug flow. Top Border Security, including a Wall, is $25 Billion. Pays for itself in two months. Get it done!”
Could somebody please explain to the Democrats (we need their votes) that our Country losses 250 Billion Dollars a year on illegal immigration, not including the terrible drug flow. Top Border Security, including a Wall, is $25 Billion. Pays for itself in two months. Get it done!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 4, 2018
Trump is set to meet with congressional leadership again at the White House on Jan. 4, after the new Congress leadership is voted in. The leaders met on Jan.2, but no progress was made. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was slated to give the congressional leaders a border security briefing, but was interrupted by Democrats and was unable to deliver the briefing.
Trump has been saying since at least July that he was willing not to sign the funding bill, resulting in a partial government shutdown, if Congress did not deliver funding for a border wall.
Lawmakers managed to pass funding bills for about three-quarters of the government, but when it came to the last one, which included the DHS along with border security, Democrats blocked the wall funding in the Senate, where Republicans lacked a sufficient majority.
GOP Senators eventually kicked the can down the road, passing a Democrat-backed bill to fund the DHS until Feb. 8 without the wall money.
But this option failed in the House, where Republicans passed a bill with some $5 billion for the wall instead, which in turn was refused by Senate Democrats.
As a result, on Dec. 22, about one-quarter of the government ran out of money.
Trump said on Jan. 2 that he is willing to continue the shutdown until the wall money materializes, calling it “too important a subject to walk from.”
Charlotte Cuthbertson and Petr Svab of The Epoch Times contributed to this report.